Most of us are familiar with that uncomfortable feeling that comes from eating too fast, or eating something that didn't quite agree. Indigestion, overfullness, gas, bloating... However you want to phrase it, it's not fun! Fortunately, there's a simple, effective way to soothe the belly, and it comes in the form of a cup of tea.
Digestive discomfort is something I experienced all too often before I pinpointed my food intolerances, and still deal with occasionally when I — knowingly or unknowingly — eat something I shouldn't. As a result, I've become well acquainted with home remedies for gas and bloating, as well as the stress that often accompanies these ailments. In such situations, I find that sipping a cup of hot tea is soothing in itself. Even better if that tea contains herbs and spices that have a long history of being used to promote good digestion.
In addition to making this tea when I'm in the throes of digestive distress, I'll often take it as a preventative before or after a meal. The combination of ingredients can help stimulate the body's natural digestive juices and help food and trapped gas to move through the digestive system, thereby reducing bloating and painful cramping.
Let's take a closer look:
Fennel seed - Fennel is my go-to herb for gas and bloating. Have you ever seen bowls of fennel near the door at Indian restaurants? That's because it is a carminative herb, meaning it prevents or relieves gas. Fennel stimulates the flow of bile and relaxes the smooth muscles of the digestive tract, helping food and gas to pass though our system.
Peppermint - Peppermint also relaxes the digestive muscles, allowing gas to move and relieving pain from cramping. In Europe, mint has a long history of use in digestifs. Recently several studies have shown that peppermint may be helpful for those with Irritable Bowel Syndrome or IBS. (Note: Peppermint may be irritating to those with gastroesophogeal reflux disease or GERD.)
Ginger - Ginger stimulates the flow of saliva, bile, and gastric secretions and aids the movement of food through the digestive tract. I like using dried ginger pieces in teas because they're easy to blend and store, but you can also use fresh ginger if you have it on hand.
Chamomile - Chamomile helps to relax muscle spasms, including the smooth muscles of the intestines. Its bitter flavor also stimulates the release of the body's natural digestive enzymes. In addition, chamomile has the ability to relax and calm the nerves, which can be most helpful when you don't feel well.
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The recipe below is for a single serving, but you could also make a big batch of the dry tea blend and store it in a jar for easy access.
Note: As with any health concern you should, of course, listen to your own body and the advice of your health practitioner. If you're curious about the research associated with some of these ingredients, check out the University of Maryland Medical Center's guides to chamomile, ginger, and peppermint.
After-Dinner Belly-Soothing Tea
1 teaspoon dried chamomile flowers
1 teaspoon dried peppermint leaves
1 teaspoon fennel seeds, lightly crushed
1/2 teaspoon dried cut ginger pieces (not ground)
8 ounces boiling water
Honey to taste (optional)
Combine the chamomile, fennel, ginger, and peppermint in a tea pot or mug. Pour boiling water over. Cover and steep for 10 minutes. Strain tea, then sweeten with honey, if desired.
(Image credits: Emily Han)